The incoming first year class is amongst the smallest in recent college history despite the college having the “the largest applicant pool in the history of the college,” according to Vice President of Enrollment Management Cathy Davenport.
Davenport explained that, for the class of 2023, “Dickinson increased its selectivity, accepting 40 percent of students who applied compared to 49 percent in previous years.” She noted that the college “won’t know exact class numbers until sometime after the add/drop period.”
Davenport continued that despite the smaller class size, Dickinson left several students on the waitlist. “On May 1, we still had 931 accepted students who were admitted and did not withdraw or enroll,” despite offering admission to select waitlisted students beginning in early April, she said.
Davenport also noted that, with the decrease in class size, the college will need to devote fewer resources to first year activities, namely first-year seminars, and that the student faculty ratio, currently at 9:1, is expected to decrease. For the class of 2024, the college plans to enrol a total of 575 students, according to Davenport.
Despite the smaller class size and the planned size for the class of 2024, these decreases have not negatively affected the college budget, according to Vice President of Finance & Administration Bronté Burleigh-Jones. She said via email that for the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year, the college had a net positive revenue of $3.9 million. Although the college brought in less money $110K less than anticipated last year, this decrease in revenue was offset by college department not spending an allocated $4 million in the same year.
77% of income that year came from students in the form of tuition, room and board, and a decrease in offered financial aid, while the majority of expenses was split between 61% on salaries and benefits, while 31% was spent on operational costs. She noted that much of the additional money will be put towards closing the budget gap of $3 million for the 2020 fiscal year.
For the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year, Burleigh Jones stated “the P&B (Planning and Budget) Committee understood that the student body would be smaller due to the graduation of the [class of 2019], which meant it would receive less revenue from tuition, room, board, and fees.” She continued that the college had anticipated a $4.9 million budget for the 2020 fiscal due to “lower enrollments than budgeted.” However, “the budget shortfall occurred because the budget was adopted during the spring semester before we knew the final headcount and discount rate for the incoming class,” Burleigh Jones said.
Burleigh-Jones continued that the college operates a contingency fund, to account for “contingencies is a prudent and proactive way to hedge for circumstances that may have a negative effect on the college’s budget.” This fund has been drawn on to account for the deceased tuition revenue, and steps have also been taken to decrease unnecessary costs through the deactivation of some residence halls which are temporarily surplus to requirements.
Despite the smaller incoming class, the college is in no need for budget cuts in the 2020 fiscal year. “The contingency, the positive operating results from FY19, the use of some restricted funds, and operational savings created by a smaller student body will close the budget gap,” according to Burleigh-Jones.
Davenport noted that fluctuations from time to time are not unusual. She also noted that the incoming class does not strongly correlate with geographic areas with which the college has traditionally resonated, in part due to smaller numbers of students overall in both New England and the mid-Atlantic region.
Because of this, Davenport noted that the college is looking to expand its presence in other markets, while adding additional admissions counsellors in more traditional markets. “We have added regional counselorsin other markets where we want Dickinson to be better known, including California and North Carolina, areas with a growing number of high school graduates,” Davenport said, “we have added two additional regional admissions counselors in key areas where we want to maintain a strong foothold.”
“The class of 2023 will continue to affect the budget throughout its four-year tenure at the college. For example, we already are anticipating and will appropriately plan for a smaller student body in the Global programs in FY22 (2021-2022), the class’s junior year,” added Burleigh Jones.
First-years have mixed reactions to their small class. Luka Dubnik ’23 said, “I think that it has its pros and cons, the pros being that I’ve been able to get to know a much greater percentage of my class in a short period of time.” He continued and said, “It forces us to be more leaders on campus, and make sure we’re putting our best foot forward to make Dickinson College proud.”